Day 53 – May 26, 2022
Mile 790.0 to 804.4 through Glen Pass
14.4 trail miles | 12.2 tracked miles | 2,987 ft elevation gain | 80.6 F / 27 °C
I woke up early to tackle Glen Pass while the snow was still firm. The pass lay just a mile north of my campsite, but the final approach involved a steep 1,000-foot climb. Fortunately, the ascent was mostly free of snow and felt easy after a long and restful night.
My mind was already focused on the snow-covered, potentially treacherous descent. Crossing Glen Pass early in the season involves traversing a 70-degree slope with a few interspersed rock scrambles before the actual descent.
Mental readiness is half of the battle. The wall of snow looked ominous, but I had carefully studied notes from previous hikers, and I felt confident in my plan and my timing. Besides, I was equipped with an ice axe, microspikes, and snow baskets on my poles.
At 8am, the conditions were as good as I could hope for: the sun was up, the snow was firm, and the path was free of ice.
The traverse went without a hitch. I followed the lower established bootpath. The rock scrambles turned out to be more challenging than the snow as the rocks were loose and unstable. I proceeded slowly and carefully, soon leaving the potentially dangerous zone behind.
Glen Pass is my most technical traverse and descent so far, and I was happy that I succeeded. The views were stunning, although I didn’t take any photos during the traverse as I had my phone safely tucked into my pocket.
At the foot of Glen Pass, the snow vanished, and the character of the trail changed dramatically. The Pacific Crest Trail meandered between Upper and Middle Rae Lakes, a gorgeous pair of alpine lakes. It felt like a leisurely stroll through paradise, an oasis for the lucky few who can reach this remote corner of the world.
Arrowhead Lake, a mile further, did not disappoint either. I would have loved to linger and camp in the area on this perfect cloudless day, but Pinchot Pass called.
The trail continued to descend gently through raw and unadulterated landscapes sculpted by some of the most powerful forces in the world.
I crossed Woods Creek on a wobbly, swinging suspension bridge, and passed mile marker 800!
Then the long ascent to Pinchot Pass started, punctuated by numerous challenging stream crossings. The first crossing of the day is always annoying—who wants to slow down and potentially get wet? But stream crossings are also puzzles to solve with a bit of strategy, minor gambles, and healthy shots of adrenaline. Repeated successes make the experience exhilarating.
At least, that’s what I thought until I reached the mother of all stream crossings: a gushing river that feeds into the South Fork of Woods Creek. This time around, wading was the only option. I tried to remember the YouTube training videos that I watched in preparation for my adventure, jumped in, and survived to tell the tale.
This section is incredibly beautiful. It’s also genuinely challenging, with obstacles and surprises at every corner. Today, though just 14 miles long, was quite intense. Mileage in the Sierras is not a metric.
I set up camp for the night at a pleasant site near a creek. Tomorrow, I will wake up at 5 am to tackle Pinchot Pass. The sun hits the approach to Pinchot Pass as early as 7 am, so the snow typically gets soft very early.